Best Online DIY Tax Prep
When tax season rolls around, do you have a plan for filing? While some prefer to have a professional handle their taxes for them, online DIY tax prep services are often free and easy to handle on your own. The trick is finding the best DIY tax prep service for your taxes. You’re going to want to find a service that is reputable and can take all of your documents into consideration to ensure that you’re either paying the least amount possible or getting the highest tax return possible. Here are a few options to get you started.
- Overview of the best online DIY tax prep
- Companies at a glance
- The bottom line
Overview of the best online DIY tax prep
|Credit Karma Tax||100% free tax returns|
|Freetaxusa||Offering printed copies of tax return|
|H&R Block||H&R Block Online Assist|
|Intuit||Full suite of financial products|
|Jackson Hewitt||Offering customized list of needed tax documents|
|TaxAct||Direct comparisons between 100% DIY and Xpert help pricing|
|TaxSlayer||Value for all tax situations|
|Turbo Tax||Interactive process|
Tax prep companies
Credit Karma Tax
If the name Credit Karma sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. This company is known for offering free credit scores and reports. In some cases, you may have seen it attached to your credit card as a way to keep tabs on your credit and learn about how to improve it.
In addition to offering credit insights, Credit Karma now offers free tax filing that you can do right from the comfort of your home. Like many DIY tax prep companies, Credit Karma Tax has a streamlined filing process to help guide you through filing both your federal and state tax returns. You’ll only be shown the sections that are necessary, based on your specific tax situation. If you’ve filed your taxes using other popular services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, or TurboTax in the past, you may be able to use that to streamline your process even more. Credit Karma Tax allows you to import your prior year’s tax return from these competitors.
Credit Karma Tax supports most common tax forms, so it can work for you even if you have other documents other than or in addition to a standard W-2. It accepts a dozen different types of 1099s, including 1099-INT, 1099-G, and 1099-MISC. It also supports common tax situations including itemizing deductions, reporting business profits or losses, claiming the child tax credit, and claiming earned income tax credit.
By using Credit Karma Tax, you’ll also have the support and security that it offers. Credit Karma Tax automatically checks its calculations for accuracy, but there’s always room for error, no matter which service you use. If the IRS or your state tax authority penalizes you due to a Credit Karma Tax calculation error, you’ll benefit from the Accurate Calculations Guarantee, which can reimburse you up to $1,000. Credit Karma Tax also has a Max Refund Guarantee. If you file an amended return through another online tax preparation service and receive a bigger refund or owe less in federal taxes than you did with Credit Karma Tax, it will pay you the difference, up to $100.
FreeTaxUSA offers a few different tiers of its tax prep service, each of which is designed to meet the needs of a variety of common tax situations. If this is your first year using FreeTaxUSA, you can import your previous tax year’s return from H&R Block, TaxAct, or TurboTax for free.
You can file your federal tax return with FreeTaxUSA for free, no matter how complex your tax situation is. This free service supports W-2 forms, 1099-MISC and other 1099 forms, estate and trust income (Schedule K-1), and more. It can also support credits, such as child and dependent care credit, retirement savings contribution credit, home energy credit, and general business credits.
While it’s free to file your federal tax return, FreeTaxUSA does charge $12.99 to file your state tax return. You can also opt into FreeTaxUSA Deluxe if you want additional support. This includes priority support with a live chat feature, as well as unlimited amended returns. If you’re audited, the Deluxe tier also means that FreeTaxUSA offers audit assistance to help you through this situation. Additionally, you can purchase the unlimited amended returns service separately for $14.99. To receive a mailed printed return of your taxes, FreeTaxUSA charges $6.99. A professionally bound copy of your tax return will cost you $12.99. You can also download and print your taxes for free.
FreeTaxUSA offers some guarantees, as well. Its first guarantee is that your federal tax return will be free, no matter how simple or complex it is. FreeTaxUSA also guarantees the biggest refund and backs that up by offering to refund your purchases if you get a larger refund or smaller tax liability with one of its online tax software competitors. This guarantee also includes a coupon for a free amended tax return. Finally, it offers a 100% calculation accuracy guarantee, meaning that if you have to pay penalties or interest to either the IRS or your state because of a calculation error, FreeTaxUSA will pay you for those charges.
H&R Block is a common name in the world of taxes, and chances are you’ve probably seen a location or two when driving through town. By doing your taxes yourself through H&R Block, you’ll benefit from unlimited on-demand help from a tax professional without ever stepping foot into an office to speak with a tax preparer
Unfortunately, unlike some of its competitors, H&R Block is only free if your taxes are relatively simple. The good news is that H&R Block Online Assist can help match you with the right level of service so you can see what costs you’re looking at upfront.
The free version is free for both federal and state taxes and allows you to deduct student tuition and loan interest, as well as report your retirement income. If you have anything more complex than that, you may need to pay for the Deluxe, Premium, or Self-Employed versions. The higher levels of H&R Block’s online tax service all charge an additional state tax prep fee of $36.99.
This is on top of the starting costs:
- Deluxe: starts at $29.99
- Premium: starts at $49.99
- Self-employed: starts at $84.99
If you want to get help from the tax pros, there are some additional costs to take into consideration. Getting help from a tax expert starts at $39.99 with an additional state fee. This gives you access to on-demand chat or video and unlimited help, as well as the ability to share your screen for guidance.
H&R Block does offer additional features. Its maximum refund guarantee means that if you find a bigger refund somewhere else, your tax prep with H&R Block is free. However, unlike some competitors, its audit defense is not free, so if you’re audited, you’ll have to pay an additional fee of $19.99 for help.
Intuit offers a suite of products that can help not only with your tax prep but with other financial services as well. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all of your financial needs, Intuit may be the place for you.
Intuit’s personal finance products include TurboTax, Mint, QuickBooks Self-Employed, and Credit Karma. Credit Karma is a free product that allows you to check your credit scores, monitor your credit report, and learn more about what is affecting your credit score. Mint is a popular personal finance app that allows you to create custom budgets, track your spending, and monitor your subscriptions for free. If you’re self-employed, you can use QuickBooks Self-Employed to send and track invoices, track expenses, pay quarterly estimated taxes, and more. You can also combine this with TurboTax self-employed to manage both products in one monthly subscription.
Intuit also offers products that are geared toward accountants. This includes QuickBooks Online Accountant, which allows you to manage everything for your clients in one place. Other products include Lacerte Tax, ProConnect Tax, ProSeries Tax, and ProAdvisor Program.
Small businesses can use Intuit products for everything from payroll to taxes. QuickBooks can really do just about anything. QuickBooks Payments allows you to accept credit cards, debit cards, and ACH bank transfers. QuickBooks Payroll allows you to set payroll to run automatically. It also calculates, files, and pays your payroll taxes for you.
Jackson Hewitt offers a simple online filing process for those that would rather not pay to have one of its Tax Pros file for them. In addition to its ease of use, one of the best features is that there is a single price for all filers.
Unfortunately, Jackson Hewitt does not offer a free tax filing option. You can choose between filing only your federal taxes for $25, or your federal and state returns together for $49. This price comes with features that can help make your process simpler, even if it might cost a little more. You’ll have step-by-step guidance throughout the filing process, as well as access to customer care support.
One of the most daunting things about filing taxes on your own is figuring out what documents you have or need. Jackson Hewitt makes it easy by giving you a few common options to select based on your situation, including “own a home,” “have student loans,” and “own a small business.” You’ll then get a customized checklist of the documents that you need to file your taxes based on your answers.
If you’re a little hesitant to spend money on doing your taxes yourself, you may be happy to know that Jackson Hewitt offers a satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your experience using Jackson Hewitt Online, it will refund your tax preparation fees. You can also get a refund of your federal return fees if you get a larger refund or smaller tax bill somewhere else. Finally, if there’s an error in Jackson Hewitt Online’s software and it causes you to be charged interest or penalty fees by the IRS, Jackson Hewitt will pay those for you.
TaxAct offers a quality product for most tax situations. When you visit the website, you can quickly get an idea of how much filing with this service might cost. You can also toggle between the true DIY options and filing with Xpert help to compare pricing.
TaxAct’s free file option is designed for simple tax returns. It can support W-2s, retirement income, unemployment income, dependents, and child tax credits. When it says free, though, you should know that it only means free federal tax returns. For each state tax return that you file, you’ll be charged $4.95.
According to TaxAct, Deluxe is its most popular product. This includes everything in the Free product, as well as expenses such as itemized deductions, adoption credits, student loan interest, Health Savings Account (HSA), and real estate taxes. It’s $24.95 to file your federal tax return with this product, and $44.95 for each state tax return that you file. TaxAct also offers Premier and Self-Employed tax products, which cost $34.95 and $64.95 respectively for federal tax returns.
TaxAct does not charge you anything until you actually file, so if you want to try it out, you can do so without investing upfront. You can import past tax returns from TurboTax and H&R Block into your TaxAct account to make filing easier. TaxAct also offers step-by-step guidance through the process and will inspect your returns to find tax-saving opportunities and any errors that might increase your risk of an audit. Like many of its competitors, TaxAct also offers a 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantee.
TaxSlayer offers some low-cost filing options for a wide range of tax situations. Whether you’re looking for the best value or help from a Tax Pro, you’ll be able to find the right product for your needs.
The Classic product is what really makes TaxSlayer shine. It covers all tax situations, including all income types and all credits and deductions. If the IRS has an inquiry regarding your federal return that was filed through TaxSlayer, TaxSlayer will work with you to resolve the inquiry for up to one year after the IRS accepts your return. This product is a great value at just $17 for the federal tax return and $32 for each state tax return.
If you have a simple tax situation, you can use TaxSlayer’s Simply Free product and get one free federal and one free state return. This product includes the ability to upload a previous tax return to import your data as well as unlimited email and phone support. You can also purchase the Premium product ($37 for federal) to get quick access to customer support, including live chat and Ask a Tax Pro features. Or, if you’re self-employed, you can opt for the Self-Employed product at $47 for federal tax returns.
In addition to the low costs, TaxSlayer offers guarantees and zero-out-of-pocket fees. You can choose to deduct the cost of your TaxSlayer products and services from your federal tax refund. You’ll also be guaranteed the maximum refund or a refund of the price you paid for your chosen TaxSlayer product. If you receive state penalties or interest charges due to a return filed with TaxSlayer, it will reimburse you for those fees.
TurboTax makes it easy to find the tax solution that is meant for you. All you need to do is visit its website and select the situations or statements that apply to you. TurboTax will then rearrange its product listings to show you the product it recommends based on your answers.
Like most DIY tax prep companies, TurboTax offers a Free Edition. This allows you to file both your federal and state taxes for $0, but it only covers simple returns. TurboTax’s most popular product, though, is Deluxe, which is meant to maximize your deductions and credits. Deluxe covers all W-2 and 1099-NEC income without expenses. It also covers mortgage and property tax deductions, charitable donations, student loan interest, and more. To file with TurboTax Deluxe, you’ll be charged $40 for federal and $40 for state tax returns.
For more complex tax returns, there are 2 other products to choose from. TurboTax Premier is designed for investing and investment types and allows you to auto-import investment and tax data. TurboTax Self-Employed takes your line of work into consideration as it searches for unique deductions that are personalized to you.
TurboTax makes it easy and almost fun to file your tax returns. You start by giving TurboTax information about yourself and your past year so that TurboTax can assess your tax situation. Then you can upload photos of your documents and let TurboTax import the data as it walks you through the process. No matter which product you choose, TurboTax guarantees that you’ll get the maximum refund.
Companies at a glance
|Credit Karma Tax||$0 for federal and state|
|FreeTaxUSA||$0 for federal, $12.95 for state|
|H&R Block||Starts at $0 for free, $29.99 for Deluxe, $49.99 for premium, and $84.99 for self-employed|
|Intuit||Products start at $0|
|Jackson Hewitt||$25 for federal only, $49 for federal and unlimited state returns|
|TaxAct||$0 - $64.95 for federal, $4.95-$44.95 for state|
|TaxSlayer||$0 - $47 for federal, $0 - $32 for state|
|TurboTax||$0 - $90 for federal, $0 - $40 for state|
What do I need to file my taxes?
The documents that you need will depend on your tax situation, but you’ll generally need income information such as your gross income, business income, or capital gains.
What is a standard deduction?
This is the portion of your income that is not subject to tax. It’s based on factors such as your filing status, age, and whether someone else has claimed you as a dependent.
Can I trust online tax filing services?
Yes, it’s totally safe to e-file your taxes with any of these services. They’re all in compliance with tax laws and can help you make sure that you are, too!
Why should I file my taxes online?
The simple answer is: to save money. Tax preparation services can be expensive, and fortunately, there are software programs out there that can help do that for you. E-filing your taxes can also help you save time because you can fit it into an evening or any free chunk of time rather than scheduling an appointment to meet with an enrolled agent, CPA, or other tax professional.
The bottom line
Taxpayers can greatly benefit from using an online DIY tax prep service. While letting someone else do the work for you can be tempting, this low-cost alternative makes it almost as easy while saving you time in other ways.
The most important thing to remember is that like with any product, you need to find what works best for you. You might want to compare companies to see which one can support your tax situation at the lowest cost. If you want more hands-on support while you’re filing, you can take that into consideration as well.
No matter what your situation is, it’s worth looking into whether a DIY tax prep service is worth it for you. If you find that it’s not, you can always go back to letting a tax professional handle it all for you instead.